November 24, 2020

Hey! Listen Up!

By Paul Bieber

Yes, you. Listen up on how you can improve communications with your team, your customers and your vendors. Do you try to end someone’s sentences or give an answer to a question before the question is fully asked? Do you give your opinion on a subject prior to hearing another’s full opinion?

Yeah, that description fits just about all of us. With more electronic communications and less face-to-face contact, maybe this dreaded hearing disease will get better. Hope so. Here are the symptoms: You are speaking with a vendor about pricing on glass and as the vendor starts to tell you the upcoming price, you interrupt and say, “I need this price on 6-mm float.” The vendor smiles, says OK and you are one happy glassman. Except you didn’t hear what the vendor was offering. It may have been even lower, or there was going to be a combo deal with 6- and 8-mm glass.

You are speaking with a customer, giving a quote, and near the end of the customer’s request you tell him the price. It turns out you missed that last part of his request causing you to give him an incomplete quote, and you didn’t get the job.

Your job is to listen to your customers, suppliers and, most importantly, your in-house team. Listen to what they say and then decide on an appropriate answer. In Japan, for instance, it is appropriate to wait up to eight seconds before answering a question. In the U.S., according to linguistics reports, four seconds is acceptable. You are not on a late night TV show where you have to give instant answers that are funny. Take your time and give the correct answer on the first reply, rather than having to ask for a second chance when you hear the full question.

The same is true for your vision. Look at the person you are speaking with, eye-to-eye. Don’t gaze around the room or look at a clock or look at another person while your counterpart is speaking. That is about the surest way to have a bad conversation.

It is like playing baseball. If you are the batter and swing early, you will certainly not hit the ball. You wait until the ball is over the plate and then hit with all you have. It is the same in your business. Properly timing your answer to your customer or your co-worker will make your day run more efficiently and more profitably.

Speaking of baseball, my long-lost and hopefully family member Shane Bieber won the Cy Young Award for the American League. It just doesn’t get better than this.

I wish all of our readers a safe and healthy Thanksgiving. Elaine and I have been married for 46 years and this is the first holiday we are not with family. It is sad. For the better long-term health of us all, it is necessary and wise.